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Encanto: About Prophecies

I watched my first Disney cartoons when I was ten. It was at my aunt's house in the then Jubilee, now Otedola Estate in Lagos. My cousins and I saw the first instalment of Lion King and then the first and second instalment of Little Mermaid.

It was the beginning of a love affair, one that has lasted over the years, one that has moulded very important parts of my life. I still don't have language for what Coco did to me. But this is not the story here.

I watched Encanto last night. It is beautiful like most Disney cartoons are. It is solid. It is complete, and this is the highest praise I have to offer. I can go about the music, the setting, the complex characters and most importantly, the story. There should be a college course solely centered on writing a Disney script because what-in-the-fucking-genius is going on in those writing rooms?

Spoilers ahead!

In the hidden mountains of Colombia, everyone in the family of Madrigals is magically gifted except Mirabel. Antonio can understand animals. Isabella makes flowers bloom. Luisa has super strength. Pepa can control the weather. Adassa has enhanced hearing. Rhenzy is a shapeshifter. Julieta heals with her cooking. And Bruno, the family outcast who is self-exiled has the gift of prophecy.

Now, Encanto's story is one of intricate family ties, irrevocable loss, grief and its coping mechanisms, the weight of (familial and societal) expectations and a community unexpectedly coming together in a time of need. And the story happens through Mirabel's eyes. But it is Bruno, her uncle, the prophet that struck me the most.

Bruno is ostracized from his family and village, because, in simple terms, he is bad vibes. He is regarded as the village's doomsday prophet. We Don't Talk About Bruno summarizes it: your fate is sealed when your prophecy is read. In the same song, we hear a list of some of his dooming prophecies over the years:

  • Pepa: Bruno says, it looks like rain. In doing so, he floods my brain... Married in a hurricane...

  • Villager 1: He told me my fish would die, the next day, dead...

  • Villager 2: He told me I'd grow a gut and just like he said...

  • Villager 3: He said that all my hair would disappear. Now, look at my head.

These might sound funny and low-stakes and they are but it goes on:

  • Isabella: He told me that the life of my dreams would be promised, and someday be mine. He told me that my power would grow, like the grapes that thrive on the vine.

  • Adassa: He told me that the man of my dreams would be just out of reach, betrothed to another.

When Mirabel finds out about Bruno's disastrous prophecy about her life and its unclear fate, she finds him and in a lightbulb moment, she tells him, ...see more. Have another vision. You can't say the weight of the world is on your shoulders and the end.

This stopped me in my tracks. Why is a prophecy a full stop?

In many religions, like Christianity that I'm familiar with, a prophecy whether it bears good news or not is a sure thing. It is the end. It is a full stop. Many prophecies are by their very nature self-fulfilling because of this. A prophecy happens because you hear it, and you believe it. You seal your fate because you believe it is sealed. It is a loop.

I took a step back and analyzed the above prophecies by Bruno and I have a reply for all parties involved.

  • Dear Pepa, your emotions are tied to the weather. When you are happy, it is sunny. You are angry, there is thunder. You get sad, there is a cloud. Of course, it was going to rain on your wedding day. Your brother was just being naughty, and you said it yourself, he floods my brain...

  • Villager 1. Of course, your fucking goldfish will die. That is what goldfishes do. They look pretty and die.

  • Villager 2. You are perhaps the most annoying of the lot. Your stomach got larger due to a lack of discipline or exercise. Or maybe even disease. If you think Bruno's words magically engorged your stomach, I have a shark in my bathroom to sell to you.

  • Villager 3, sometimes when people grow older, they lose their hair. I'm sorry for your loss.

  • Isabel, while your story arc is delightful, your powers grew because you shook off the pressure and took agency of your feelings. You were coming of age and it was bound to happen.

  • Adassa, while your man was initially betrothed to another, I'm glad y'all ended up together. But this only happened because you opened your mouth and told him you wanted him. It happened because you did something about it.

It was amazing to me, that Bruno exiled himself from the people he loves to protect Mirabel from his prophecy. So much pain, and for what?

If you do not believe in prophecies, good for you. And if you do, good for you. Just remember that you are the master of your fate. You are the captain of the soul. I do not believe in a life where you sit back and fold your hands, in a life where you think do not have agency. Maybe ask your prophet to see more. And if you don't like what your prophet sees, remember you are the only one that can determine what comes to be in your life. It is a different scenario where there are systems or institutions, lack, disability/infirmity, etc. holding you back. But someone else's foresight? A not-so-random prediction? This is reductive, but; you are not a tree, move.

In the culture I am from, I know lives have ended, families have torn apart, futures have gone wide off the desired mark because of prophecies. So much strain and anarchy; heartache and waste because someone somewhere saw, or better still, shaped a suitable narrative and people made it their modus operandi, and designed and walked the very path that led them to it.

A prophecy is not an end until you say it is.


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